GENEVA Oct 11 More than a third of Geneva's
banks expect a difficult 2017 after finding 2016 much tougher
than the year before, an annual survey of the Swiss city's
financiers showed on Tuesday.
Swiss competitiveness has been badly dented by the strong
franc, but Yves Mirabaud, president of the Geneva Financial
Center which carried out the poll, said the main threats are
curbs on immigration from the European Union and a failure to
pass laws guaranteeing access to the EU banking market.
And the country's banks, many of which are based in Geneva,
should not count on Britain's vote to leave the EU driving banks
out of London to the shores of the city's lake, Mirabaud said.
"We must not underestimate the City of London's resilience,
nor should we forget that a presence in Luxembourg, Dublin or
Frankfurt would give you access to the European market, unlike
in Geneva," he said.
Asked where they would relocate if they left Geneva, four in
ten bigger banks and the overwhelming majority of smaller banks
said Luxembourg, with London also named by a minority. None
chose New York, Hong Kong or the Middle East.
A combination of increased regulatory scrutiny, a crackdown
on U.S. tax evasion and the longer-term impact of the financial
crisis on returns have all made life harder for Swiss private
banks, which once enjoyed a relatively cosy existence looking
after the fortunes of the world's super-rich.
However, two out of three banks employing more than 200
people in Geneva said 2016 was turning out to be "difficult" and
a further one in six found it "very difficult", the Geneva
Financial Center, which represents more than 110 banks with
18,855 local employees at the end of 2015, found.
The picture was less bleak among smaller banks, more than a
quarter of whom said 2016 was going "well" or even "very well".
Wealth management was a particular sore point for many of
the bigger employers, with nine out of ten saying Geneva had
become a less attractive place for it in 2015, and eight out of
ten saying it had become less attractive for the EU's wealthy.
More than 70 percent of the big banks said wealth management
had been "difficult" or "very difficult" in the first half of
2016, and the same number reported total assets under management
shrinking by 3-7 percent over the period, which only a minority
blamed on shifting exchange rates.
Three-quarters of the big banks expected to cut their
overall Geneva workforce in 2017, a third of them by more than 5
percent, but smaller banks expected their payroll to go up or
stay the same, the survey found.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)